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My Volunteer Story - Leslie
Engaging in the Community

Meet Leslie Bissegger. Volunteering has been a part of her life all through the years.This is her story.
Her parents were her first role models - they volunteered in many community roles throughout her childhood. So she followed their example. When she studied at Simon Fraser University, she organised blood donor clinics and continued to do that at her first employer. She thought it was a good thing to do and from her perspective, it didn't take much time.
When her kids were little, she volunteered on the parent council at their school.  During that time, she was also a leader for 10 years with Scouts Canada for kids 6-18 years to teach them about outdoors and community to help them develop into good citizens.  The activities were many and included camping on weekends and teaching them to canoe.  The kids volunteered to collect winter coats for new immigrants, learned practical skills like cooking, first aid, how to read a map, use a compass, develop leadership skills, team skills, make friends, etc.  It was a learning experience for both the adults and the kids.
She also volunteered with the Bruce Trail Association, was on their Executive Board and prepared monthly newsletters there.
She has part of the Community Advisory Board for Heart Lake Conservation area for several years– initially to support the development of a master plan for how the park would be conserved and used.  A volunteer led road ecology monitoring study was undertaken to examine road kill and find effective ways to eliminate the killing of turtles, frogs, birds and other animals crossing the busy road.  As a solution, a special underpass was created.  It is a tunnel created under the road to divert the animals to enable the wild life to cross the road safely.
She is on the Executive Board of the Wilderness Adventurers of Ontario Club, which is completely volunteer run.  Responsible for communications, she donates her time creating newsletters and organising educational events for like minded people who enjoy being outdoors.
She was previously employed as a marketing manager for a company which encouraged employees to volunteer.  Employees donated their skills through the Junior Achievement program and packed medicine for doctors who wanted to travel to other countries to share their skills.  She was also on the employee volunteer committee to encourage employees to volunteer.
When she was laid off, she was not having success in her job search so decided to volunteer her time to keep busy while searching. Through Volunteer MBC, she came across volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity GTA.   That led her to donate her time and skills at the Habitat ReStore in Brampton.  While she was there, she was told about a vacancy, applied and got the job she is currently in.  She is currently in Volunteer Outreach, educating and encouraging people of all ages to volunteer with Habitat.  "Volunteering helps while you are looking for a job.  People appreciate you when you volunteer, you make networking connections, can try new things, you are reminded of the skills you have", she said. This is her first job in the non-profit sector.  She has noticed that the dedication and the hard work of people in this non-profit organisation is more than in the business world because the work they do everyday positively impacts children and families in a meaningful way. 
What did she get out her volunteer experiences?  She made new friends, gained new experiences using skills in a different way and learned more about her community.
Her greatest accomplishments volunteering were seeing the kids learn new skills and independence at Scouts Canada and that helping to conserve the environment in the city is important.  At Habitat for Humanity, it feels good helping families which need a hand up and out of poverty.
When asked how volunteering has benefited her, Leslie replied, "You learn people skills, make good friends, get to try new things and become an engaged member of your community".
Her advice to others interested in volunteering is this, "Find something you feel a connection to or have a passion for.  Look around at what's available and see what volunteer roles are out there.  Think of what skills you have to give, what time do you have and what you'd like to learn. If you are a student looking for 40 hours, do more than 40 hours since people will notice that on your post secondary or job applications.  Everybody can find some time to volunteer; it is not that hard, you can find the time, if you really want to, start with a small commitment.  Some of the best volunteers are very busy with families and jobs but they find the time to volunteer and give back.  And every volunteer gets more back than they give.

Written by Lisa Dant
Written by Lisa Dantas, Volunteer Writer